Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Arrival: Drew Stubbs

Just when the Reds 2009 season was becoming borderline unwatchable for even the hardiest fans, a shot in the arm arrived in the form of centerfield prospect Drew Stubbs. For fans who grade out as something above "casual fan," the opportunity to view top prospects can make an otherwise unwatchable season somewhat watchable.

Stubbs is one of the Reds top prospects, though one whose selection in the draft came with one of the biggest opportunity costs in MLB history, but has been languishing in the minors. Perhaps to the point of stagnation, as he had really done as much developing as he was likely to do. In fact, there were rumblings from the fans that the Reds should have brought Stubbs up for a cup of coffee last September. Still, the Reds were probably right in their belief that Stubbs wasn't quite ready last September, but may have kept in the minors a bit too long.

In the minors, Stubbs was working on a slash line of .268/.353/.360 with a 104/51 K/BB ratio, 46 steals in 54 attempts, and a paltry 3 homeruns in 411 At Bats. Suffice it to say, Stubbs' prospect star tarnished a wee bit in 2009, due in no small part to his power outage and the performance of Chris "Supernova" Heisey.

Still, Stubbs has reopened some eyes with his performance at the MLB level thus far. He has matched his full season minor league homerun total in less than 61 MLB At Bats. In my book, Stubbs' value is tied to his power output. He can be a very nice player if he hits only single digit homers. Still, if that's all the power he provides, then he's a complimentary player. However, he can be a true impact player if he can hit 20+ homers a season. Time will tell.


Things I like about Drew Stubbs in 2009

1. The Improved Power Production

Not only does he already have 3 homeruns, but he's driven several more balls deep into the outfield that have settled into the gloves of fielders, including a fastball from Matt Cain that reached the warning track.

Still, he's already cranked three homers, so it's looking likely that Stubbs can run into 10-12 homers a year almost by accident. So, maybe 20+ bombs and a future as an impact player isn't out of the question.

Hopefully, Stubbs' power production doesn't completely fall off the table a la Chris Dickerson in 2009.

2. Speed and Stride

Stubbs is very, very fast. And, he's got a natural, free-and-easy stride that allows him to cover a lot of ground, both on the basepaths and in the outfield. He really glides out there and rea

He's already swiped 3 bases on the year, which should be an indication of what's to come in the future. Stubbs could be the big time threat on the bases that the Reds sorely need.

3. Line Drive Swing

I've always liked Stubbs' swing. He stands tall up there and has a smooth, fluid righthanded swing. Contact has always been a problem, in part because of his height and longer arms, but his swing produces line drives at a good clip when he does make contact.

During his brief MLB career, Stubbs is hitting line drives at a 22.5% clip, which is very strong. Admittedly, it's a small sample size, but at the very least you have to appreciate the swing.

Things that Concern Me about Drew Stubbs in 2009

1. Strikeouts

Obviously, this has always been the concern with Stubbs. Whether he can make enough contact to take advantage of his power and speed.

Typically, I don't worry too much about strikeouts. I'm a big believer in the value of late-count hitters and one of the byproducts of such an approach is a significant number of strikeouts. Still, there is a tipping point at which the lack of contact and putting the ball in play becomes a real drag on offensive production. His minor league career stats and his early 2009 MLB stats indicate that Stubbs may live dangerously close to this tipping point during his MLB career.

2. Defense

Now, I'll preface this by saying that Stubbs certainly has all the tools to be one of the premier defensive centerfielders at the MLB level, which is undoubtedly what he'll become. In fact, he's shown flashes of it already, but I just haven't seen him translate his considerable skills into top drawer defensive play.

Stubbs seems to have a good first step and covers a lot of ground in the outfield, but he has taken a few strange routes to the ball and hasn't taken charge on a couple of balls in no mans land like a centerfielder should.

Overall, I'm not worried about his defense at all. He's clearly a defensive stud in the making and any problems he is having at the MLB level likely stem from the learning curve of Major League Baseball.

I'd imagine that he is still getting used to the size of big league ballparks, which have upper decks not seen in the minors. The more massive ballparks can take some getting used to for outfielders.

Also, Stubbs is likely going to get more and more comfortable taking charge on the field. Maybe he didn't feel comfortable running the show in the outfield as a rookie, but that certainly won't last long.

There is one point of interest on Stubbs and his defense. The only criticism I have ever heard of his defensive ability is that he sometimes has difficulty going back on the ball. And, while the sample size is very small, John Dewan's +/- system may well bear that out.

In 2009, the +/- system rates Stubbs as a net 0, as he is a +2 on Shallow balls in play, a +3 on Medium balls in play, and a -5 on Deep balls in play.

I would imagine that a larger sample size will put an end to that trend, but it's interesting to note that his early season performance is somewhat in line with scouting reports on his defense.

Final Thoughts

Overall, Stubbs has impressed me during his debut. I was rather concerned about his utter lack of power this year in the minors, but his early MLB performance indicates that the power is lying just under the surface. Whether the power shows up or not, it'll be nice to have a gazelle like Stubbs patrolling centerfield for the foreseeable future. The only people who will enjoy watching Stubbs glide around the outfield more than the fans will be the Reds pitchers.

Like most Reds fans, I'm excited to see what the future will hold for Stubbs and I'm thankful that there are still a few things worth watching in the 2009 Reds season.

15 comments:

  1. I really like stubbs, I have been defending him all year against everyone who has been calling for him to be traded and let heisey take his spot.

    I say we give him the rest of the year in center and should be the favorite in spring training. Give him every oppurtunity to shine, because if he crashes and burns we have alot of centerfielders in the minors that could step up in the next few years. I really dont think that will be an issue, as i have a lot of confidence in him.

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  2. Smitty,

    Yeah, I remember you being very high on Stubbs. I hope you are right and that Stubbs' new found power stroke is for real. If he can hit for power, then he has true impact potential.

    At this point, he's looking more and more like another Mike Cameron. Good power, speed, on base skills, and defense, but problematic contact rate may prevent good batting averages.

    Another Mike Cameron wouldn't be too shabby. Not at all.

    Best,
    Lark

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  3. i drank a little too much today haha go bucks

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  4. stubbs is a beast btw

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  5. any new posts comeing?

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  6. Smitty,

    Yeah, I remember you were very high on Stubbs. I believe you liked a Grady Sizemore comparison for him. I hope you're right on that one.

    Best,
    Lark

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  7. Parker,

    The power is unbelievable. Where has it been? Hopefully, it's a sign of what is to come. However, I'll reserve judgment until the sample size gets a bit bigger. After all, Chris Dickerson flashed a lot of power last August/September and it didn't carry over into 2009. Still, Stubbs' power is more in line with his track record, so hopefully it's here to stay.

    Best,
    Lark

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  8. Hey Anon,

    I'm working on a few posts. Doing a bit of research for Step 3 of Rebuilding the Big Red Machine and couple other topics. I'll get them up as soon as possible.

    Best,
    Lark

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  9. yea i really like the grady sizemore comparison except i think stubbs has a little less power and more speed and obviously stubbs is a righty. But excellent defense, high walk rates, lots of k's and 260-270 avg.

    hopefully if he can prove that he has as much power as grady, then i think he could be more valuble with his speed.

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  10. Lark,

    What are your measures of determining value of a SP? For example, I use: IP, SO-BB ratio, WHIP, and ERA.

    What do you suppose the rotation and bullpen look like next year?

    Harang-Arroyo-Cueto-Bailey-Maloney

    Masset-Fisher-Burton-Owings-Herrera-Rhodes-?

    Cordero-traded, I think i should happen.

    Lastly, I think, should the Reds entertain the idea of trading Phillips. He would be more marketable now bc his salary in 2010 is under 7, slightly. Then, in 2011, it jumps to 11 something. This is under the idea they could put Frazier in to take his place. However, writing this all out, sounds bad. A LOT would have to go right with the Reds to win. That is a lot of rookies/young guys (Votto, Bruce, Stubbs, Frazier, Dickerson, Cueto, Bailey). Then again, Phillips is going to be the deal breaker that wins the central. Anyway, the question...should they trade him?

    Oh, I lied, one more. What do they do with Danny Dorn?

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  11. Hey Parker,

    I use a little bit of everything. Just depends on what I'm trying to find out. If I want a quick and dirty take on how a pitcher is performing, I use K/9, BB/9, and GB/FB. For the most part, that's what's within the pitcher's control, so those are the most important. Strikeouts, walks, and groundball rate. I'm not too big on ERA, but I use it in tandem with FIP sometimes. I like WHIP. I also like LOB%, BABIP, LD%, and HR/FB. Of course, the PitchFx data can yield some interesting info, as can stats on contact rate and first pitch strike %. There are so many different metrics out there now that you can determine what's really going on with pitchers.

    As for the rotation next year, that looks about right. Though, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Reds sign a vet to fill the 5th spot. I like Maloney, but I think the Reds have soured on him or were never sweet on him to begin with. Travis Wood will get a look, but given his triple-A struggles and how conservative the Reds are, he seems unlikely to win a rotation spot out of spring training. It'll be interesting to see what becomes of Owings. He could get another shot at the 5th spot, but I suspect the Reds will look to upgrade.

    As for the bullpen, that seems about right as well. I don't see Coco getting traded. He's making a lot of coin, but he's been pretty solid. The guy I think we should have traded is Art Rhodes. What exactly do we need with Art? He's been great, but is he likely to be that good again in 2010? Seems doubtful. Given how many teams needed bullpen help, I'm surprised to see Art still in Cincy.

    As for Phillips, I really wanted to trade him after his 30/30 season. I thought that was the high water mark and that we should have sold high. I took a lot of flak for that one, as you can imagine it wasn't a popular opinion at the time. Still, the guy I was targeting was Zack Greinke, so that would have turned out pretty well for us. But, now, I'm pretty much resigned to keeping him.

    Anyway, I think the Reds should keep Phillips. I'm not sure I buy Frazier at 2b, though it is curious to see the Reds working him out there, so maybe there is something in the works. Or, maybe the Reds are planning to shift Phillips over to shortstop.

    It'll be interesting to see what the Reds do this offseason. I think they are pretty close to having a contending team, especially if Homer Bailey takes a step forward. It will take a couple of shrewd moves, but it can be done. To me, the no-brainer is to deal Juan Francisco and Yonder Alonso to improve the team. Both are going to be nice chips and neither should fit into the Cincy plans going forward. They could really bring some value back to the organization to fill positions of need.

    As for Dorn, the Reds are going to let him wither and die on the vine. I've never gotten the feeling that they view him as anything other than organizational depth or a bench player. Unfortunately, his 2009 season got off to a very slow start and his numbers certainly reflect it. I'm a big fan of Dorn, but he probably needs a new organization to get any kind of legitimate shot, especially with Stubbs and Bruce holding down two of the three outfield slots for the foreseeable future.

    Thanks for the comment. It will be very interesting to see how things unfold this offseason. The Reds are one or two smart moves from being a quality ballclub. And, they actually have the chips to get something done. The question is whether Jocketty will make a smart move.

    Best,
    Lark

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  12. trade for hardy or move phillips to ss frazier to 2nd, sign a vet for 5th spot, and move votto to lf and yonder take first. all our holes are filled. Of course i still think they would be a year away from contending

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  13. Lark,

    What is Bailey doing different now, with his current run, than he was doing before?

    Thanks,

    Parker

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  14. Hey Parker,

    Homer is still a bit of an enigma, but there are a couple of factors that are contributing to his success. First and foremost, his velocity is finally back to the mid-nineties like it was reputed to be. In addition, he's been throwing a lot more strikes as of late.

    Here are his last few games broken down total pitches and strikes:

    September 13: 115/81
    September 7: 117/71
    September 2: 116/73
    August 28: 115/74
    August 23: 114/69

    He's had better stuff and he's starting to command it more effectively. There has been some question about the changes the Reds made to Homer's mechanics, but I like the changes and I'm hoping that he's beginning to find a more consistent arm slot. If he finds a consistent release point, then the command of his pitches should continue to improve.

    I'm more optimistic about Homer than I have been since he was first called up. He has a chance to take a significant step forward in 2010, which we need given the loss of Edinson Volquez.

    At the very least, it's nice to see a measure of competence out of Homer.

    Thanks for the comment!

    Best,
    Lark

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